MORGANTOWN — B.J. Myers walked off the mound after the third inning against Wake Forest in the regional championship of the NCAA tournament last season.
The then-Mountaineers junior, in a win-or-go-home environment, gave up 10 hits and eight earned runs in his three innings of work. Myers was replaced by Shane Ennis, who gave up six hits and four runs in 2 2/3 innings, and a 12-8 loss sent WVU home.
It wasn’t the performance anyone was hoping for, especially for Myers, who was considered the go-to option on the mound for the Mountaineers.
“It was a fun experience but also a humbling experience for me,” Myers said of his NCAA tournament opportunity. “It’s a different ballgame — you have to turn it up a notch and play a different style of ball. You have to compete with every pitch, and you get no pitches off.”
Wake Forest’s home stadium — David F. Couch Ballpark — isn’t friendly to pitchers, with dimensions of 310 feet down the left field line, 300 feet down the right field line, 400 feet to center and 370 feet to the power alleys in left-center and right-center.
Compared to other Big 12 ballparks, it was drastically smaller and more of a hitter’s park.
“Yeah, it was definitely a different aspect of pitching,” Myers said, laughing. “My focus all offseason was thinking that if I get to pitch there again, I have to pitch better. I want to be better down in the zone. Reacting and knowing the field around you is helping, but you have to be able to locate regardless of what park you’re pitching in.”
Myers started 16 games in 2017, posting a 5-5 record and an ERA of 4.52. He was tied for the team lead in strike outs, with 73, and walked 21.
As the top-of-the-rotation starter, Myers will be relied on to help fulfill what are lofty expectations for the Mountaineers heading into this season, which begins Feb. 16, at Jacksonville State.
“Any time you can get back on the field and start competing again is exciting,” Myers said. “We’re getting a little antsy after competing against each other every week. We’re ready to get back into the uniform and try to pick up where we left off last year.”
Myers does have a new pitching coach this season after Derek Matlock left to manage at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Dave Serrano, who coached U.C. Irvine and Cal State Fullerton to the College World Series, joins the Mountaineers as the new pitching coach.
Serrano spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Tennessee.
“Dave brings a lot of credibility with him because of his name and his background,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “You get instant buy-in from the pitchers when you have a guy of that caliber. It gives you some national recognition as a program when you’re able to hire somebody like that, who had a lot of options at a lot of different places and he chose West Virginia.
“I think he’ll be a great addition.”
As for Myers, he thinks his last season in Morgantown could be a special one.
“We just want to win. We came up one game short last year, and it’s kind of fueled a fire this fall and early spring. That last game kind of got out of hand on us and on me, so we want to get better every day and stay together as a team.”